Animal therapy nonprofit to hold Longmont community meeting before starting sessions in March

February 19, 2020

By: John Marinelli

Originally found in Times-Call

Animals can often make people’s days a little — or a lot — brighter.

Rise Phoenix Rise, a nonprofit that recently moved to Longmont from Richmond, Va., applies this concept to peer-to-peer group therapy, having participants work through difficult issues with the help of furry friends. And Wednesday, it’s looking to provide information to the Longmont community and gather input at an outreach meeting before its inaugural group session in March.

Executive Director Traci Jones said she got the idea for the nonprofit more than five years ago after seeing “the magical benefits that animals have on people’s mental health.”

“It’s like natural medication, just being around animals,” said Jones, who came to Colorado seeking a drier climate for her health.

Jones already had been working with peer-to-peer therapy before Rise Phoenix Rise was formed officially in 2015. Such therapy involves those living with mental health issues gathering and working through their problems together. Jones wanted to combine that with animal therapy.

“I wanted to couple those two modalities to help people rise from the ashes of their struggles into wellness,” she said. “Rising from the ashes” is also how the organization got its name, she added, after the mythical Greek phoenix, a symbol of rebirth.

These “magical benefits” aren’t just magic, though. According to Dr. Sarah Davidon, research director at Mental Health Colorado, doctors have been prescribing emotional support animals due to their ability to reduce stress.

“Health care professionals are seeing the medical benefits of easing what are sometimes really debilitating symptoms that can arise from undue or prolonged stress,” Davidon said.

While she said they aren’t a silver bullet and can’t eliminate people’s problems on their own, when combined with a “robust way of addressing the issues of concern, it can definitely help.”